brass band

views updated May 21 2018

brass band. This type of combination is found all over Europe and in countries settled by Europeans, but highest standard of perf. is possibly reached in N. of Eng., especially Lancashire and Yorkshire, where its popularity is great. Usual constitution in Brit. is cornets, flügelhorn, saxhorns, euphoniums, tbs., and basses (formerly bombardons), with perc. Saxs. (not strictly a brass instr.) used to be incl.

All the wind instr. of the brass band except the bass tb. are scored for as transposing instr. Their keys being B♭ and E♭, their notation shows, respectively, 2 flats less (or 2 sharps more) than the sounding effect, or 3 flats less (or 3 sharps more). With exception of bass tbs. and perc. all are notated in treble clef: except E♭ cornet, where the sound is a minor third higher than the notation, all the sounds are lower, the intervals of the discrepancy ranging from a 2nd below (B♭ cornet) to 2 octaves and a second below (B♭ bass). Thus a brass band score is rather puzzling to an unaccustomed reader.

Many 20th-cent. Eng. composers (e.g. Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams, Ireland, Bliss, Bantock, Howells, Birtwistle, and Bourgeois) have written for brass bands, as has Henze. There is also a distinguished line of ‘brass band composers’, including Percy Fletcher, Cyril Jenkins, Hubert Bath, Denis Wright, Kenneth Wright, Eric Ball, Gilbert Vinter, and Edward Gregson. The ‘brass band movement’ in Brit. has a history (almost a folklore) stretching back to the start of the 19th cent. It derived partly from the old city ‘waits’ and partly from the military wind bands, of which there were many during the Napoleonic Wars. After Waterloo (1815) men left the army, but the musicians continued playing in civilian life. Brass instruments were comparatively cheap, and the bands flourished as hobbies among the working-class population in the manufacturing towns of Lancs. and Yorks. (though also in Cornwall and elsewhere). Brass band competitions began c.1818 but developed fully c.1840. Among the most celebrated championships are the British Open (formerly held at Belle Vue, Manchester) and the National (held in London). It was for the latter in 1930 that Elgar comp. his Severn Suite. Bands are frequently named after an industrial firm or colliery as well as after a place. Among the most celebrated have been Bacup, Black Dyke Mills, Besses o’ th’ Barn, Wingate's Temperance, Foden's Motor Works, St Hilda Colliery (reputedly the greatest of all), Creswell Colliery, Brighouse and Rastrick, Munn and Felton's, Fairey Aviation, CWS Manchester, GUS Footwear, Grimethorpe Colliery, Cory, Carlton Main Frickley, and Hammond's Sauce Works—names of industrial poetry! Among notable band impresarios, arrangers, and conductors mention should be made of Henry Geehl, William Rimmer, William Halliwell, Eric Ball, Walter Hargreaves, Elgar Howarth, J. H. Iles, Alexander Owen, John Gladney, Edwin Swift, Roy Newsome, Maj. Peter Parkes, the Wrights ( Denis, Frank, and Kenneth), and the Mortimers ( Alex, Fred, Harry, and Rex).

brass bands

views updated Jun 08 2018

brass bands are wind bands comprising brass instruments, sometimes with percussion, as opposed to military bands which mix brass and woodwind. The standard British scoring is: 1 soprano cornet in E flat, 8 or 9 cornets in B flat playing in four parts (3 or 4 solo, 2 second, 2 third, and 1 ripieno), 1 flugelhorn in B flat (often doubling the ripieno cornet), 3 tenor horns in E flat (solo, first, and second), 2 baritones in B flat (first and second), 2 euphoniums in B flat (one part), 2 tenor trombones (first and second), 1 bass trombone, 2 basses in E flat (bass tubas playing one part), and two basses in B flat (one part), with optional percussion.

The rise of the brass band in England coincided with the development of valved brass instruments, particularly the cornet, allowing a wider chromatic range. These powerful new instruments were ideal for open-air performance. Many cavalry regiments had mounted brass bands, while amateur civilian bands rapidly became popular. Throughout their history brass bands have been particularly associated with the north of England, often being attached to collieries or factories. The Stalybridge Old Band (1818) may have been the earliest band; others were soon formed in Wales (1832) and Scotland by the 1860s. Some of today's leading bands, including Black Dyke Mills Band and Besses o'th'Barn Band, have a history stretching back to the mid-19th cent. Estimates suggest over 20,000 British bands in existence around 1900; many were associated with religious organizations, and for more than a century brass bands have been very successfully promoted by the Salvation Army.

Increasingly high standards of performance were fostered by the many brass band competitions, such as those at Belle Vue (Manchester), and the National Brass Band Festival held at Crystal Palace, London, until 1936. The strict rules of the National Brass Band Club lay down the standard scoring required and ensure the amateur status of all but the conductor. Contests are rigorously judged and include a compulsory test piece. Although much of the band repertoire comprises arrangements of variable quality, original works have been written by many leading composers, including Elgar, Holst, and Rubbra, and, more recently, Henze, McCabe, Horowitz, and Edward Gregson.

Eric Cross

brass band

views updated Jun 11 2018

brass band • n. a group of musicians playing brass instruments and sometimes also percussion.